Makeup Reviews: Primers!


How long has makeup primer been a thing? I only became aware of it sometime last year, but I’m often out of the loop on these advancements.  Now, often when a whole new makeup product becomes popular, I’m skeptical.  “I never needed you before,” I think, “so I’m pretty sure I don’t need you now, or ever.”  But thank goodness primers came into vogue when I was engaged to be married, and all the insanity that implies, because I don’t know how I lived without makeup primer. Eyeshadow is no longer a pointless charade! Applying foundation is now easier than rocket surgery! I LOVE primers.

Eye Primers

You know how when you put on eyeshadow the color disappears by… like… the time you’ve driven to wherever it is you are going? No more! Eyeshadow primer basically acts like glue, holding that shadow to your eyelid.  It also alleges to “prevent creasing,” but I don’t really have a problem with shadow creasing anyway, so I can’t comment on that functionality.  I’ve only tried two, and I love them both, but one is much cheaper than the other, so take that under consideration.

NYX Cosmetics High Definition Eye Shadow Base Primer
Application It has a little sponge wand in the tube, but you still have to use your fingers to get it applied evenly over your lid.
Good news This absolutely works and it is pretty damn cheap. What more could you want?
Bad news 1) It’s a very light beige color. I think that it blends in clear, at least clear enough to be completely hidden by whatever shadow you put over it, but I can see how this might be a problem on darker skin. 2) It is sold out at Ulta all the damn time. Maybe I shouldn’t be popularizing it even more. What can I say, I’m a truth-teller.


Too Faced Shadow Insurance
Price: I paid $18, but Amazon has it for $12.35!
Application You squeeze it out onto your fingertip and apply that way. It’s surprisingly easy to control how much comes out of the tube.
Good news It works! And it feels really nice on my skin. Bottom line: Because I have both, I use this for my everyday shadows because it’s a little more amenable to blending, and the NYC one for bolder shadows, but in the future, I’ll probably only buy the NYX kind because it’s cheaper.
Bad news Again with the beige, although this is a darker, warmer shade. Also, sometimes it separates a bit in the tube and this watery stuff comes out that ends up making your eyelid feel glued open. When that happens, just knead the tube a bit with the cap still on.


Face Primers

Before I get into telling you about all the primers I’ve tried, here’s how I think you should actually choose a face primer: Go to Ulta or Sephora or whatever beauty superstore you like. Put a stripe of every primer they have a tester for on your face. Try your best to remember which primer went where. Walk around the store doing the rest of your shopping. When you are done, feel up your face. Which stripe on your face feels the best? This is your primer.


Too Faced Cosmetics Primed and Poreles
Price: $30
Good news: This was the primer that passed the stripe test described above. It’s a very thick, slippery goo. It’s a silicone-based primer. Those two sentences might have been redundant. The thing I love about this primer is that it makes foundation application incredibly easy. The foundation just glides on your skin and blends seamlessly without much effort. It’ll last longer and more uniformly, with virtually no flake-age, which as a dry-skinned gal is all I could ask for.
Bad news: Hey, are you bad about washing your makeup off before bed? Well then, don’t use this or any other silicone-based primer. You WILL break out. If something makes ME break out, it will make everyone else break out. I am sure of it. I think people who are prone to breakouts probably should avoid this even if they’re religious about washing off their makeup. Also, it’s beige.


L’Oreal Studio Secrets Color Correcting Anti-Redness Primer
Good news: I have eczema, so sometimes my face is really red. Using this green goo under my foundation fixes that even on my worst skin days. Added bonus is that before you put on your foundation your face is really quite green, so you can terrify your partner or your pets or sing “Defying Gravity” into your hairbrush. Trust me, you’ll look normal again after you put on your foundation. Which maybe means all my fretting about beige primers on darker skin is unnecessary? I hope so.
Bad news All of that “easier foundation application/better foundation wear” stuff that normally comes from a primer doesn’t so much with this product. So I usually layer another primer over it.


The rest of these are all Lexi’s hand-me-downs or samples I got at Sephora, so I haven’t used them as much, but when has that stopped me before?


Make Up For Ever UV Prime SPF 50
Price: $30
Good news First off, SPF. Drug store face makeup almost always has SPF in it, and fancy makeup almost never does. I guess rich people don’t need to use SPF because they’ll just get Botox? But last I checked Botox doesn’t treat skin cancer. So the SPF in here is a delightful relief. Secondly, it apparently works so awesomely that my friend Annie thought I was already wearing foundation after the Sephora chick smoothed this on my face. Thirdly, and I realize this is only relevant to me and my sister and my sister doesn’t wear makeup, so maybe only relevant to me, but: it smells like the place my family vacationed when I was growing up. Someday, I will splurge on this for that reason alone.
Bad news: There’s silicone in here, so I’m guessing it’s bad for the faint of pores. Also, what the hell, “forever” is one word!


Smashbox Photo Finish Luminizing Foundation Primer
Price: ~$35
Good News: Um… the good news is this is expensive and I’m telling you not to buy it.
Bad News: “Luminizing” means this is dark brown and glittery (I believe the photo above is of the regular old photo-finish primer, which I haven’t tried). It’s like really intense bronzer that you put foundation over. When I was at my most tan after my honeymoon, I was able to use this. Any other time, it was noticeable even after foundation. If I can wear that green primer without problems but I can’t wear this, you know I’m not kidding when I say it is INTENSE.


Korres Vitamin E Face Primer
Price: ~$20
Good news: This feels so good on my skin. It’s very moisturizing and soothing on my bad eczema days. It’s silicone-free.
Bad news: This is a moisturizer masquerading as a primer. Don’t get me wrong, it works great as a moisturizer, but I was already moisturizing my face before I put on my makeup, and this has no additional primer-y benefits. And sure, it’s silicone-free, but I think a rich lotion is probably not something the breakout-prone want to slather on before their makeup, either.


Laura Mercier Oil-Free Foundation Primer
Price: $30
Good news: All you zit-getting ladies, thanks for bearing with me through a long list of products you can’t use. Here’s your reward: an oil- and silicone-free primer that still smooths out your face to make foundation apply more easily and holds it on for longer. And even us dryer chicks might find use for it: I sometimes use this on my shiny, shiny forehead because I don’t own Urban Decay De-Slick (yet), or on my whole face whenever I’m broken out (because I didn’t wash off one of these other primers, probably).
Bad news: It makes my face feel a little tight. But for people whose skin isn’t as dry as mine (read: everyone) that might be good news. Also, I think it smells like dish soap, and who wants to think about doing the dishes while getting pretty?


  1. Because it is amusing and sorta relevant, here is my whole history with face primers, in a nutshell:

    Hey, this weird teensy bottle came with my new powder foundation. I wonder what it is?

    Oh, it’s primer. Oh my goodness, primer is AMAZING.

    Primer continues to be amazing. Smooth skin, check. Easy application of powder foundation, check. Lasts all day, check. Love, I has it.

    Crap, the teensy bottle’s empty. I guess I should replace it? Yea, I should replace it.

    Shit, primer is expensive.

    Oh, woeful last drop of expensive primer, how nice you are. How lovely you were for my makeup. I guess I’m giving you up now…

    Hey, primer, did anyone ever tell you you feel…well, don’t take this personally, but you feel a little like the silicone lube we keep in the bedside dresser?

    Actually, you feel a lot like it. Almost exactly. And that stuff is made for skin, right? And it does moisturize, I can confirm that. So maybe…?


    Well, hold on there. Why not? No harm in trying, right? If it doesn’t work I can just wash it off…

    Holy balls.

    No, seriously, waitjustaminute.

    I can’t believe that actually worked. Perfectly. Exactly the same way as the teensy expensive bottle. Except this bottle is enormous, and costs eight bucks.

    This. Is. Awesome.

    And that is why I keep silicone lube in my makeup drawer.

    This story brought to you by bored activities on a rainy afternoon, and the ellipsis.

    • Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. From everything I’ve read, the exact same formula as the non-luminizing smashbox primer. But holy boatloads cheaper. I put a dab on the back of my hand, mix it with a dab of my MAC tinted moisturizer that I use as foundation, and apply all over my face. It has revolutionized my makeup routine and practically erases my pores.

      • Yes, I came to comment specifically on Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. Just because this stuff is marketed to go on your thighs doesn’t make it gross. It’s not like you took it off your thighs and then put it on your face!

        This stuff is miracle stuff. It holds everything in place, it prevents oil shine, it makes my face feel so so so so so smooth. Love!

    • Sara,

      How much lube do you use and does it matter what kind? I think I’m going to try it!

      • Just a few drops! And I don’t think it matters what kind, as long as it’s silicone based? I haven’t really done any clinical studies on this one.

  2. Mitcho, as you know, I am a big fan of your makeup reviews. HOWEVER, in reading them I have already broken my “no makeup until December rule.” Your writing is that good (and my willpower that weak).

  3. I use Benefit’s primer, “That Gal,” (I pretty much only buy Benefit products) and I really like it. It comes out pink but it goes on sheer. It’s a recent purchase, (bought for your wedding, actually) but I can’t imagine how I put on my foundation without it. I guess I have yet another makeup product I now need to keep in stock!

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